Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Why Shopping Independent Stores This Holiday Season Should Be On Your To-Do-List


written by: Nicole Leinbach-Reyhle, Forbes Contributor
Did you know that on average, 48 percent of each purchase at local independent businesses was recirculated locally, compared to less than 14 percent of purchases at chain stores? This data, shared by the American Independent Business Alliancealong with countless other reasons are why it’s so important to support your local LOCM +1.38% businesses this holiday season and always.
"Shopping should be an enjoyable experience with interactions that leave us feeling good versus feeling like we have to do a chore. I find that’s far more likely to happen when I’m patronizing local independent businesses, plus I also find independent merchants usually beat the chains or the online mega retailers when you add up the key factors. These include product quality and durability, getting expert advice without having to waste time doing my own research and ease of return if an exchange is needed, as well as price. I think the discount chains have brainwashed America into valuing cheapness above all, but the best value isn’t always – or even usually – the cheapest product or vendor,” shares Co-Director of the American Independent Business Alliance Jeff Milchen.
Expanding on this is Ellen Divita, Director of Community Development in DeKalb, Illinois, which is home to Northern Illinois University.
"Keeping purchases close to home helps communities in countless ways, and consumers need to recognize this as they make their purchase decisions. Local shopping – whether at small or larger stores – impact community economics, and too often purchases are being made online nowadays. Browsing the shelves of your local store is an experience which cannot be replaced by shopping on-line, even if cheaper and quicker,” Divita states.
Additionally, Divita shares that DeKalb recently lost a major retailer and as a result, they’d like to attract independent merchants to make up for this loss while also bringing value to their community.
"We intend to work with our businesses to focus on customer service and build the customer experience. We are hopeful to attract an independent book seller as a key downtown revitalization strategy yet know this will be a challenge,” Divita further states.
Advantages to Shopping Local 
With internet shopping at our fingertips and big box stores always competing to one-up the other when it comes to offering consumers deals, independent merchants and other small businesses too often get lost in the dust. This trend, however, doesn’t have to continue and thanks to movements that include Small Business Saturday – which takes place the Saturday following Thanksgiving – and the increasingly popular Shop Small message that is shared year round, consumers are becoming more in-tune with the value of shopping local.
"More and more people are recognizing how important it is for their local economy and quality of life to patronize local businesses that support their community. That includes not only job creation and taxes, but support for local charities, events and more,” Milchen of the American Independent Business Alliance states. 
To expand on this, consider why shopping local impacts your immediate community beyond economics. For starters, independent businesses help bring character and charm to communities – as well as help communities stand out and become more exciting, more enjoyable and more memorable than others. This ultimately leads to strong economic growth and long-term vitality, as well as helps bring new residents and jobs into the community.

Consider your own firsthand experience, as well. It’s likely fair to say that you’ve experienced towns worth visiting and towns only worth driving through simply based on the unique small shops that exist within them. Collectively, these small businesses help shape and create the community in which they reside – as well as bring together residents and out of town visitors alike.

If charm isn’t reason enough to get you shopping local, consider the value that small, local businesses bring to your local employment options. Independent businesses help increase employment rates, as well become the customers to local accountants, lawyers, printers, marketing agencies and more. The domino effect is simply too good to ignore – yet unfortunately, too many consumers do.

Online or at big box stores, remember that every time you spend even a dollar, you are impacting your local economy, vitality and overall livelihood. The schools, public services, parks and recreation and so much more are all impacted by local businesses, as well, and again, impacted by your choice to support your community at large… or not. So this holiday season – and even beyond – consider where you want to spend your dollars and how it will impact the big picture of your hometown.

To view the original article please visit:

Monday, November 24, 2014

Need Some Holiday Inspiration? Here Are Some Campaign Ideas From Top Retailers

By Alicia Fiorletta, Senior Editor, Retail TouchPoints

It’s always interesting to see the different approaches retailers take to their holiday marketing and promotions. Sure, there may be the standard Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals, but retailers are thinking outside of traditional promotional calendars and tactics in order to stand out.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve made a point to track all the different announcements from retailers outlining their holiday sales and campaigns. As I hoped, they cover a broad scope, touching on everything from sweepstakes and giveaways, to doorbusters, events and experiential marketing campaigns.

Since we’re somewhat early on in the holiday game, there’s still time for retailers to take a look at their peers and see how they can revise and refine their marketing strategies. While you won’t be able to complete a chain-wide beacon deployment by Black Friday, here are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing and even thinking about next year!

Encourage shoppers to discover new things: Last year, we covered Barnes & Noble’s inaugural Discovery Weekend, which was developed to “bring the spirit of fun and discovery to the holiday shopping experience and help customers find the perfect gifts for the people they care most about,” said Mary Amicucci, VP of Adult Trade and Children’s Books at Barnes & Noble, in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. Due to its success, the retailer held the event again this year! Throughout the weekend, Barnes & Noble will provide family-friendly events, interactive activities, complimentary story times, and book signings and appearances from authors and celebrity personalities. Additionally, the retailer will hold a series of contests, including the #BNSweaterContest, which encourages consumers to wear their most outrageous holiday attire and post pictures to social media. Winners will receive a series of must-have gifts for the holidays and Barnes & Noble gift cards.

Although these are two very different approaches, they both encourage consumers to further engage with the Barnes & Noble brand. While Discovery Weekend drives in-store traffic and creates highly immersive and fun shopping experiences, the #BNSweaterContest encourages shoppers to interact on social. Taking a multichannel approach like this is key, especially as more consumers use their mobile devices in stores. 

Establish new partnerships: Connecting and building relationships with similar or like-minded brands can be valuable for expanding your consumer base and generating buzz. This year, Target has established a partnership with TOMS to release a collection of unique apparel, footwear and even home goods for the holidays. TOMS is a really hot brand now, and has been recognized for its charitable business model. Because of this partnership, Target has a very positive association with the brand, which improves consumers’ overall perception of the retailer.

Macy’s is thinking bigger with its holiday partnerships. The retailer has introduced the Holiday Arcade, which is a series of in-store gifting shops offering a variety of different products for different types of consumers. The Holiday Arcade gifting shops have been rolled out in six locations across several cities, including New York City and Chicago. Macy’s generated partnerships with Build-A-Bear Workshop, Paddington Bear and Curious George, among other brands, to roll out the Arcade. Because this store concept is limited time, it creates a sense of excitement for shoppers, which encourages them to visit participating stores before the products are gone!

Embrace charity and good will: After all, contributing to the overall good of mankind is what the holidays are about after all! Retailers can build customer loyalty and improve sentiment by partnering with charities or holding special events and campaigns for local or even national organizations. For example, Macy’s is inviting customers to participate in its annual Believe campaign, which has raised more than $8.7 million to Make-A-Wish.

From November 7 to December 24, customers can visit their local Macy’s store to drop stamped letters addressed to “Santa at the North Pole,” into special Santa Mail letterboxes. Now, consumers can even visit to create and send their letters to Santa. For each letter collected in-store and online, Macy’s will donate $1, up to $1 million, to Make-A-Wish, helping to grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions.
  Have some fun: Yes, it’s really that easy! Look at how Kohl’s and Disney Interactive are getting families to participate in some holiday fun. Up to 4,000 adults and children submitted videos of themselves singing the theme from Frozen, “Let it Go.” The videos were submitted on the Disney web site and through the Disney Applause app for iOS and Android devices. Americans can select their favorite singers, who will then be included as a part of Kohl’s holiday commercial, which will air during the American Music Awards on November 23.

In a way, the campaign approach is not directly associated with Kohl’s as a brand or retailer. But a variety of Frozen products are sold in the retailer’s stores, and Disney is most likely a great partner for the retailer. In fact, Kohl’s even is encouraging shoppers to share their favorite “Frozen finds” on social media using the hash tag #FrozenFunAtKohls. This was a great way for Kohl’s to be included in a nationwide campaign that generated a lot of buzz and participation. Although your retail business may not have the same bandwidth or reach as Kohl’s or Disney, this example confirms that your campaigns don’t always have to focus on getting customers to make a purchase.

As we venture further into the holiday season, I’m sure more fun campaigns and tactics will emerge.

Are there any interesting approaches you’ve seen so far? Share your thoughts in the comments section below! 

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

Written By: Peter Pishko, VP of Operations

My apologies to Andy Williams; No, not that time, by the time you’re reading this post everything is set and you’re off and running in the great holiday race. Shelves are stocked, everything is decorated and business is booming. I am writing about the next most wonderful time of the year: Physical Inventory.  The key to a successful Physical Inventory (PI) is organization. I have some organizational steps that have proven successful in my past and continue help our customers today.

Start the old fashion way with pen paper and a calendar.

Select the dates that you will be performing your physical inventory count.  Make these dates known now so you are not besieged with vacation/time off requests for that week. Make it a blackout period no one is off. It is very important to have the support of your staff in getting this task accomplished successfully. Taking into account your dates, set some guidelines for your purchasing and receiving areas. You should cut off merchandise delivery for a period of time prior to your PI (I used to cut off two weeks before my count date). A full PI is best scheduled during a period of time when your stock levels are at a low point, obviously less to count and more room for organization of merchandise.  If merchandise is received during this period set it aside and do not enter it into your system until after you have completed your counts.
Ensure that you have allocated adequate staff for the task at hand. The physical count should be performed by teams of two, a caller and a recorder. The actual purpose of these individuals has changed from the days of pencil and paper tallies to having teams give credibility to the actual count in terms of checks and balances. It speeds the scanning process along as well (if you are using scanners) and as the count progresses a second count can be completed. It is easier to verify the electronic count with teams of two and expedite recovery after the count is completed.

Draw a map of your store. I use graph paper but this can be done in excel or using various CAD (computer aided design) programs, which is a critical tool for successful preparation for a PI. You probably already have maps of your store(s) that are used for planning layouts, displays etc.  Be sure to include all window displays, warehouses, storage closets, back office spaces,  offsite storage and any place you can possible have stored inventory. The idea of a having a map is to make sure you have gone through all of these locations thoroughly and that everything is counted. Check absolutely everywhere; in cabinets under cabinets on top of shelving units. I have found merchandise in old display units in storage, on top of and under all warehouse shelving (it’s good to check these odd locations where you have found merchandise after the PI has been completed; hidden merchandise is a Loss Prevention issue).  Desk drawers, closets, the rest rooms, I used to check drop ceilings as well. I found a stack of denim in the ceiling once (I’m sure it was just misplaced!). Verify that each of these locations has been checked before your inventory using your map for reference. 

Label the map so each of your fixtures, every shelf, hang bar, t-stand and merchandise peg have a number and letter. A corresponding spreadsheet should be created listing each location and fixture; this spreadsheet and map will be used the day of your physical inventory to verify a physical count has been entered and verified by your team. I used to highlight the map to verify that an area has been counted and then check it off on the spreadsheet. Starting with Yellow for first count and then blue, green would mean that an area was finished.  Count your fixture in numerical order not randomly; this is a time for order!

Nothing can hold up a physical inventory like merchandise without tags or incorrect tags. It is important to have your staff verify that all merchandise has a bar code label prior to your count. Set up an area in your stock room for your team to place merchandise so it can be properly labeled before your PI and have it retagged. Faded or torn tags should be reprinted so that everything is counted properly.

 If you are scanning tags verify that your scanner can read your barcodes. I once attempted a physical and none of my tags scanned and I did not check prior to the team arriving and so I had to reschedule. It was an expensive mistake I will never make again.

Pre-counting merchandise can save you a lot of time. Have a plan for difficult to count items; counting bath beads by hand is not the most efficient way; use a scale.  Chocolates, coffee, soaps and those small items at the POS should be pre-counted.

(Now all of this is simply preparation for entering the counts into your software system and that process will differ based upon the software you’re running.  I am not getting into that process in this post.)

 Remember this is not something that happens every day and it should be made into a special event. I always brought in food throughout the day and held a contest for the team member who found the most items with missing tags etc. The point is that it is a time for cleaning up and getting on to the next page.  Spring cleaning and setting order is actually happening after the holidays at the begging of the New Year for most of you because you are setting the tone for the New Year. Embrace Physical Inventory; it’s the most wonderful thing.

Happy Holidays!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Why I Can’t Stop Thinking About Rebecca Minkoff’s Connected Store

Written by 

Alicia head shot
I can’t seem to contain my excitement after seeing the new Rebecca Minkoff flagship in SoHo, New York City yesterday.

For those of you who or are unfamiliar with the New York City area, Greene Street — where the Rebecca Minkoff store is located — is basically the Mecca of fashion. Luxury names, such as Jill Stuart, Jack Spade, Tiffany & Co. and Stella McCartney are dispersed along the block. Startup darlings, including Warby Parker and Piperlime also have flagships nearby. 

But let’s get to the fun part of the story, shall we? Upon entering the flagship I was taken aback by an enormous display showing b-roll footage of Rebecca Minkoff videos and fashion shows. A representative eventually greeted me and proceeded to walk me through the connected retail experience, which starts at the front display and ends in the fitting room.

Let me tell you: I’m not usually one to get super excited over these types of experiences. We’ve seen so many “potential use cases” and “hypotheticals” that after a while they tend to be underwhelming. You can only hear “there are no retailers implementing this” so many times. But there it was! The connected store in the flesh!

I felt like a young child on her first day of school: Excited but suspicious. Would this meet my expectations or fall short?

We started out going through the interactive display experience. When you tap the screen, the b-roll footage moves to the back and you can sift through lookbooks and product pages. When you find an item you like, you select your size and press “add to my fitting room.”

When you’re done digitally browsing, you enter your mobile phone number so you can be alerted when your fitting room is ready. Feeling thirsty? That’s fine, because you can order a glass of champagne, water, coffee or tea through the digital interface so you can rehydrate while you wait.

After you walk into your fitting room, the interactive mirror turns on. Thanks to RFID technology, the mirror recognizes all the items you’re trying on, and provides product recommendations straight from Rebecca Minkoff herself. You can adjust the lighting in the room to reflect the environment you’ll be in. For example, if you’re going to a black tie event, you can dim the lighting a bit. If you’re looking for a dress for a daytime wedding, you can make the lighting brighter. Goodbye, ugly florescent lighting that I so dread!

What I personally loved about this part of the experience is that we saw a benefit to RFID that is not often discussed. Typically, RFID is included in conversations regarding inventory accuracy and supply chain management. This time, it played a key role in engaging the shopper, and showed retailers another reason to invest in the technology.

Now, back to the shopping experience. Should you need a new size for an item you try on, or are interested in taking a recommended product for a test run, don’t fret! You just tap on a button on the interactive mirror to alert a store associate that you need some assistance.

At the end of the shopping experience, you can either purchase your items or save them to your digital shopping bag. All items browsed, added to cart and purchased are saved to your Rebecca Minkoff mobile app.

Throughout the entire demo, there was not a single technology glitch. Everything ran swiftly and smoothly, and definitely made me sad that I had to head back to the office and couldn’t shop anymore!

Apparently, this is the first store implementing this type of experience, but Rebecca Minkoff will be implementing this connected store concept in a west coast location very soon. Be on the lookout for what’s to come from Rebecca Minkoff and the folks at eBay Inc., because I’m sure they’ll be making more moves very soon!

It’s safe to say, the future of retail is officially here and it definitely is going to make my life easier!

To view the original article please visit: 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The 2014 Ultimate Holiday Shopping Guide

Once the turkey settles, holiday shopping season officially begins. This year, shoppers can expect more than 40,000 deals between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and retailers are expecting November and December sales to top $616.9 billion.

The following infographic examines what consumers and retailers can expect during the first few days of the 2014 Holiday Shopping Season, beginning with Thanksgiving and running through #GivingTuesday.

Click to enlarge

To view the original article visit:

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Marketing to Millennials

By Hannah West

If your store has been around for a few years, you probably have some loyal customers you know by name. Many of these customers are part of the Baby Boomer generation and respond well to more traditional marketing and advertising.

But there is a new generation in town. When young adults born after the early 1980s reach 18, they are grouped into a category called "Millennials" or "Generation Y." Ten years ago they may have been running around your store asking their parents to purchase items FOR them, but now they have their own disposable income.

Here are some things to keep in mind when trying to get more Millennials in your doors:

1. They grew up with technology

When it comes to technology, it is like second nature to Millennials. They grew up with cell phones, computers in school and some may have even read their college textbooks on a screen rather than a page. They have plenty of ways to access information from anywhere. Millennials are not only accessing information from computers, but laptops, tablets and phones! Some fast solutions to their even faster lifestyles:
  • Mention in your emails that discounts will be included if you show the email at the cash register on a cell phone.
  • Share your sales, news and promotions on social media sites as well as email and traditional media. Luckily, SnapRetail makes this easy for our subscribers with an option to automatically repurpose an email for social media.
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  • Run Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest-exclusive promotions or contests.
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  • Invest in offering a smartphone app.

2. They have different priorities than older generations

Since Millennials cover a wide span of ages, your customers can range anywhere from an 18-year-old girl looking for dorm accessories to a 27-year-old father looking for a gift for his young son. Every customer is different, but had this to say about the spending priorities of young adult consumers: "Whereas older adults prioritized family-focused expenditures… today's Millennials spend their money on themselves, primarily on technology and travel."
There IS good news when it comes to Millennial shopping habits. According to a study done by Edelman Digital, 40% of Millennials claimed to prefer buying local. Appeal to Millennials' preferences by:
  • Emphasizing the "shop local" movement in your marketing messages. Take note of important events such as Independent Retailer Month (July) and Small Business Saturday (November).
  • Focusing on what products can do for individual customers in your messaging. How will this benefit them and their busy lives?

3. They love "sharable" purchases

When a Millennial loves a product, everyone knows. And if they hate it, the same rule applies. Millennials love to share their product feedback on Facebook, Twitter, blogs and any other medium possible. As much as they love telling others what to buy, they also look to the web to make their own buying decisions. Another Edelman study revealed that 42% of Millennials check four or more sources when they are trying to decide whether to pay for a product or service. This may be due to the way Millennials connect to products and what purchasing these products says about them. According to, "Sharability of the experience and 'association' are twice as important to Millennials as to Boomers. Millennials don't only think about how they should share their thoughts on a product, they think of how associating themselves with the product will make them look. Give them something to talk about by:
  • Claim online listings on sites such as Yelp, Foursquare and Facebook places and encourage customers to check in and review.
  • Encourage customers to add photos of themselves using purchases or tweet at your store to let you know how much they love their purchase or experience.
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Marketing to Millennials is crucial since they are largest age group of consumers in the world. In addition to the size of this market, they are highly educated and racially diverse. The qualities of this age group in conjunction with their increasing buying power makes them worth the adjustments in your marketing.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Amazon vs. Brick and Mortar

Builder and Fixer David Otani
 “Who is your competition?” This is a question I ask my retail customers and typically they respond with a few different company names, but rarely do they respond with Amazon.  Amazon’s ability to provide great pricing, critical product information including customer reviews, and deliver within a short period of time is the new standard for customer service. Retailers who cannot provide the same level of excellent service along with a great tactile experience which Amazon cannot do, will not succeed in retailing in the future.

Retailers, in general, are late to the technology party.  They are imbedded with legacy systems that were costly to deploy and now painful to write off.  That said, if retailers want to compete and stay relevant, they will have to improve their systems to provide the consumer with more information and keep track of their consumer’s activities across multiple channels.

The cost to garner a sale in brick and mortar is exponentially more expensive than on the web. However, a brick and mortar provides a tangible experience with immediate gratification that the web cannot. A brick and mortar shopping experience can include customer interaction, the ability to touch and feel a product and, of course, the option to leisurely browse the aisles of whatever products or displays that catch their eye.  Additionally, brick and mortar provides a branded experience that no third party re-seller can ever provide.

There will always be a place for brick and mortar in the retail world. This doesn’t mean the consumer will view brick and mortar with a different set of lenses. If anything, the consumer will expect more from brick and mortar because of the face to face customer experience. Therefore, brick and mortar should be determining the customer service standard, not Amazon.

 David Otani has been a retailer for over 25 years, opened over 300 stores and has held executive level positions as a general manager, planner, merchant, and real estate / construction director. David’s passion for retailing has allowed him to be part of many success stories, both new ventures as well as turnarounds.
Additionally, David lectures at FIT semi-annually, runs a Judo school, and is currently ranked number one in the U.S. in Judo in the masters division.

Monday, October 20, 2014

5 Ways to Boost In-Store Sales

Click to enlarge

A challenge every retailer faces is how to increase sales in their store. While you may have considered improving the checkout experience, or offering gift cards, the question remains whether these efforts are worth it to your bottom line.
Our latest infographic looks at five different changes and updates retailers can make in their existing business to increase sales and boost profits. In addition to offering ideas, real world examples of the effectiveness of these suggestions towards increasing sales are included.

Infographic Content

5 Ways to Boost In-Store Sales

As a small business owner, consider these five ways to increase in-store sales.

1. Invest In Sales Training 

What - Hire the right people and develop the right skills
Why - Having a trained sales staff is one of the main reasons people choose an in-store purchase over an online one. Recent research suggests that around forty percent of customers are open to persuasion and may need help making a product decision.

4 Steps in the Art of Selling
Open / Ask for Needs / Demonstrate / Close
Eighty-six percent of the time sales staff didn't ask to close the deal. Give your sales team skills they need to succeed in today's complex sales environment.

At one self-help apparel company, providing extra sales assistance during select hours increased fitting room use by thirty-seven percent, and increased conversion rates by up to two hundred percent.
A well-prepared, effective sales rep can result in almost four times more revenue for your business than a poor one.

2. Gift Cards and Loyalty Programs

What - Structured marketing efforts that reward, and therefore encourage, loyal buying behavior.

  • People will tend to buy full priced items with gift cards increasing your profit margins.
  • Customers who purchase goods with gift cards are much less likely to return or exchange an item saving on transaction costs.
  • Refunds can be issued through gift cards eliminating cash refunds.

Why - Gift cards will attract new customers to your store who will typically purchase more than the gift card amount and make a return visit.

Over $100 billion is spent on gift cards annually with a staggering ninety-three percent of U.S. consumers purchasing or receiving a gift card annually.
At fifty-eight percent, over half of consumers still purchase gift cards at in-house retailers and mall kiosks - compared to forty-two percent of consumers who purchase gift cards online.
Seventy-two percent of customers will spend about twenty percent more at your store than the value of their gift card.
Twenty percent of customers never use the full value of the card - the remaining balance is revenue for your business.

3. Mobile Point of Sales Systems

What - Save as much as $10,000 on start up costs using a POS system compared to a traditional cash register, and increase you and your staffs' efficiency and effectiveness.
Why - Around twenty-six point two percent of businesses are considering switching to a mobile POS system.

Why Mobile POS?

  • Get real-time inventory information
  • Get customer stats on demand
  • Automatically email receipts
  • Streamline your sales processes
  • Some POS systems integrate with your accounting software
  • Enhance the customer experience, deliver unique offers to individual customers
  • Less expensive than traditional POS systems and cash registers

Nordstrom rolled out point-of-sale devices allowing customers to check out from anywhere in the store.
This efficiency reduced the potential amount of customers have to think about their purchases before they reach the register.
Total retail sales increased from $1.5 billion to $1.73 billion for the same period - a 15.3 percent increase!
The average number of items sold and the average selling price both increased after implementing the mobile point-of-sale devices

4. Online/Social

What - Offering a consistent and streamlined shopping/browsing/marketing experience both online and over social media can increase your in-store sales.
Why -

  • 88 percent of consumers are researching items online and then buying them in a physical store.
  • 78 percent of small businesses attract new customers through social media.
  • More than 50 percent of in-store retail sales in the US will be influenced by the web by the year 2017.

Retail Stores / Online Stores / Local Search Ads / Mobile Stores / Mobile App Stores / Social Media

Customers that arrive at a store after visiting the store's website on average spend thirty-seven percent more in-store than those that have not yet visited.
By spending as little as 6 hours per week, more than sixty-six percent of marketers see lead generation benefits though social media.

5. Location Based Mobile Marketing

What - Beacons are easy to use, affordable devices that SMBs can use in-store. They enable wireless communication with customer smart devices, which allows the SMB to communicate with them in proximity to or in-store.
Why - Beacons allow SMBs to broadcast offers to nearby consumers deliver relevant, targeted messages, and collect and track data to help improve marketing outreach effectiveness in the future.

Hillshire farms promoted their American Craft Link Sausages and saw:
  • A thirty-six percent increase in brand awareness and lift in overall sales.
  • A five hundred percent increase over the CPG average for mobile ad engagement.


To view the original article visit:

Friday, October 17, 2014

Why Retailers Will Love the Apple Pay Era

Why Retailers Will Love the Apple Pay Era
Photograph by Monica Davey/Corbis

Retailers should be particularly excited for Monday’s debut of Apple Pay, which promises to be an excellent tool for separating shoppers and their money.
Apple’s (AAPL) mobile payment service will let iPhone users buy things by simply pulling out their device. Researchers have long found that shoppers spend more the further they get from handling actual currency and tend to better remember cash transactions. These tendencies help explain why credit card balances tend to bloat and why casinos use chips in place of money. It’s also why companies such as Starbucks (SBUX) encourage customers to load money onto apps or prepaid cards.
Behavioral economists have a term for this dynamic: decoupling. The card or app or casino chip mentally separates the consumer from his bank account. The payment is both delayed and bundled with other charges so it doesn’t seem so painful. Citibank tested the research in 2009 and found a mobile “tap to pay” pilot program significantly boosted both the number and size of consumer transactions.
Buying things without cash is simply more fun. Richard Thaler, a behavioral economist at the University of Chicago, proved such transactions are more pleasurable experiences (PDF). Anyone who has ever walked away from an Uber ride knows this feeling well. With credit card data embedded in the app’s settings, someone using the service never actually pays or even tips—at least not in any physical way.
The question with Apple’s new payment service is whether it’s an additional degree of distance from credit cards or merely taking the well-established place of plastic in the psychology of shopping. Apple Pay doesn’t require any swiping or tapping, which seems to suggest a new level of abstraction. With a fingerprint on the iPhone button and a little wave at the cash register, the deal is done. “Now paying in stores happens in one natural motion,” Apple says in its pitch. “You don’t even have to look at the screen.”
Some 220,000 stores are already set up to accept the payments, including Bloomingdale’s, Foot Locker, Macy’s, McDonald’s, and PetSmart. The list also includes RadioShack, a retailer desperately in need of a revenue boost. The other brick-and-mortar companies in that troubled camp—J.C. Penney (JCP), Sears (SHLD)—would do well to get onboard.
To view the original article visit: Bloomberg Business Week

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Transformation Tuesday eReceipts and Mobile POS

Remember how receipts used to look like back in the day when you had to physically write everything down?

Today, paperless receipts are now common in American Retail. It is beneficial for both the consumer and the retailer because it is cost effective, more secure, and it offers the opportunity to extend the customer relationship and attach an email address to sales transactions.

We went from cash registers like this….

To registers like this…
To our current Mobile POS systems that look like this! With Mobile POS you can move through lines faster to increase sales, check inventory and pricing, and increase customer service. Thank goodness for innovative solutions!

For more information on mobile POS options available on the market, contact us by phone 800.266.1328 or request a free consultation.


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Optimism Shines as National Retail Federation Forecasts Holiday Sales to Increase 4.1%


Washington, October 7, 2014 – After a turbulent start to 2014, the National Retail Federation announced today it expects sales in November and December (excluding autos, gas and restaurant sales) to increase a healthy 4.1 percent to $616.9 billion, higher than 2013’s actual 3.1 percent increase during that same time frame.

Holiday sales on average have grown 2.9 percent over the past 10 years, including 2014’s estimates, and are expected to represent approximately 19.2 percent of the retail industry’s annual sales of $3.2 trillion. This would mark the first time since 2011 that holiday sales would increase more than 4 percent.

“Retailers could see a welcome boost in holiday shopping, giving some companies the shot in the arm they need after a volatile first half of the year and an uneventful summer,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “While expectations for sales growth are upbeat, it goes without saying there still remains some uneasiness and anxiety among consumers when it comes to their purchase decisions. The lagging economic recovery, though improving, is still top of mind for many Americans.

“Recognizing the need to keep household budgets in line, we expect shoppers will be extremely price sensitive as they have been for quite some time. Retailers will respond by differentiating themselves and touting price, value and exclusivity,” continued Shay.

While consumer confidence has been unstable much of the year, improvements over the past few months in key economic indicators will give way to increased spending power among holiday shoppers. Retail sales, jobs and housing data all point to healthy gains.  

“Though we have only seen consumer income and spending moderately – and erratically – accelerate this year, we believe there is still room for optimism this holiday season,” said NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz. “In the grand scheme of things, consumers are in a much better place than they were this time last year, and the extra spending power could very well translate into solid holiday sales growth for retailers; however, shoppers will still be deliberate with their purchases, while hunting for hard-to-pass-up bargains.”

NRF’s holiday sales forecast is based on an economic model using several indicators including, consumer credit, disposable personal income, and previous monthly retail sales releases. It now includes the non-store category (direct-to-consumer, kiosks and online sales.) For historic sales information visit NRF’s Holiday Headquarters and the Retail Insight Center.
Retailers could see a welcome boost in holiday shopping this year.
" Forecasts Online Sales to Grow Between 8 - 11% This Holiday Season" - Matthew Shay NRF President and CEO today released its 2014 online holiday sales forecast, expecting sales in November and December to grow between 8 – 11 percent over last holiday season to as much as $105 billion.** forecasts sales based on government data including, consumer credit, disposable personal income, and previous monthly retail sales releases. Holiday non-store sales in 2013 grew 8.6 percent.
Holiday 2014 Sales Infographic

Holiday 2014 Hiring Infographic

NRF Forecasts Seasonal Employment to Grow Between 725,000 – 800,000
According to NRF, retailers are expected to hire between 725,000 and 800,000 seasonal workers this holiday season, potentially more than they actually hired during the 2013 holiday season (768,000). Seasonal employment in 2013 increased 14 percent over the previous holiday season.
“These holiday positions offer hundreds of thousands of people the opportunity to turn their seasonal position into a long-term career opportunity in retail,” said Shay.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

3 Ways to Attract Repeat Customers

Written by: Nicole Leinbach-Reyhle

There’s a misconception in retail that you need to gain new customers all the time when in reality, repeat customers are what any business should aim for. Of course, gaining new customers along the way should remain on any business owner’s to-do-list – but if you treat all customers in way that makes them want to return, merchants are more likely to gain long-term success.
Below are three strategies to help retailers and other small business owners alike in combating “one and only” sales and instead gaining repeat, loyal customers.

Employee Engagement 
Many businesses overlook the value of their employees and the impact they have on their customers. Particularly in retail, restaurant and service oriented businesses, employee and customer engagement is a key piece to the customer loyalty puzzle. The reason for this is actually very simple. People like to go to places that they enjoy, and they like to go places even more when they respect and enjoy the people who work there. This includes the employees – not just the owner or manager – whom they engage with.

Making employees a priority through customer service trainings, expectations and overall store standards can help create a destination that customers will enjoy not only for the product or services offered, but for the employees, as well. Setting standards within your own hiring and training habits can strengthen this, while delivering quarterly, bi-annual or at the very least, annual reviews can help, also.

Customer Value 
The Barking Cat storefront in Salem, MA is well known for it’s outstanding customer service and in return, repeat customers.
Christopher Barnard, President and Co-Founder of Points – a company dedicated to making loyalty programs more valuable and engaging – believes that offering rewards, miles or “points” is key in attracting repeat business.

“Today’s shoppers are looking for more than just products to buy: they’re also looking for points, miles and rewards to accompany their purchases. At Points, we recently surveyed over 1,500 loyalty program members from across North America to learn more about the ways that consumers want to earn with their favorite loyalty programs. The results revealed that the majority of shoppers have redemption goals in their programs (81%), and they are willing to work toward them. 66% percent of consumers agree that earning even small amounts of points or miles in a loyalty program is important to them,” explains Barnard.
Product Knowledge
Let’s face it – if you’re a small business owner competing with the big dogs like Walmart, Target TGT -0.97% or any other nationally recognized business, you have a few disadvantages at your side. This said, you also have countless advantages to your side… such as knowing your product or services offered better than anyone in your marketplace. By positioning your brand, store or business as a leader in product knowledge, customers will return to your business for stronger support, trusted expertise and valued insight over your competitors. Plus, this also puts you in a position to gain media attention by becoming your local market’s go-to-resource whenever it comes to needing insight on what you sell.

With this in mind, sharing your expertise is also a great way to lure consumers of other businesses to yours – particularly when combined with stellar employees and reward based incentives. In fact, the Points study mentioned earlier also revealed that 69% of consumers said they would break their own habits and buy a different brand or from a different company to earn more points or miles.  As Barnard explains, “this information can really help pave the way for retailers and merchants that are interested in developing a loyalty program to woo shoppers.”

To view the original article visit: Forbes

Friday, September 26, 2014

How Personalization Takes Digital Receipts from Good to Great

From: flexReceipts

Looking around at an empty store can put a knot in your stomach.

Getting people in the door is a growing challenge for retailers. It’s so much easier for customers to sit on their couch and order what they need online. I’m guilty of it myself.

Smart retailers know that the key to making that trip worthwhile is creating a flawless shopping experience that makes every customer feel unique and appreciated.

In Personalization, Details Matter
It starts with the little things.
Like being greeted when you walk in the door. Getting waited on within minutes by smart, friendly salespeople who know the merchandise and can answer your questions. Even a good checkout experience can be memorable.

But it also comes down to money. Don’t you love it when you get a special offer on a product you buy all the time? Even if you don’t use the discount, you remember that you received it and were appreciated as a valued customer.

A recent survey by Infosys [LINK TO:] found that 59% of shoppers who have experienced personalization believe it has a noticeable influence on their purchases. In fact, 78% of consumers are more likely to be a repeat customer if a retailer provides them with targeted, personalized offers.

 Putting Your Receipt to Work

flexReceipts gives you the power to give your customers a consistently great experience throughout their entire in-store experience. While they’re shopping, your sales associates can retrieve their shopping history to find similar or complementary products. Once they reach checkout, the attendant can quickly locate their name and billing information, email, mobile number and loyalty card info without having to ask for it again.  

Here’s where the experience goes from great to memorable: Each customer’s flexReceipt is personalized based on their current and past purchases, how often they shop with you, demographics and other data.

 When your customers open their digital receipt they’ll experience an extension of their visit -- offers tailored to their interests, maybe a video about the brand, links to your social media sites, and the opportunity to pin or like their product on their own social media pages.

It’s like putting a beautiful bow on a great shopping experience gift – and one more way to extend the benefits of personalization and keep customers coming back for more.

For more information visit: flexReceipts

Monday, September 22, 2014

Future proofing mobile point-of-sale

September 10, 2014 | By Jean-Marc Thienpont 
Recently, I was out shopping with my children and we saw a pay phone bolted to the wall near the checkout line of a store. It didn’t appear to be operational, but there it stood. “What’s that?” my 11-year-old daughter asked.

Of course, the question made me feel old. But I was also struck by the pay phone’s proximity to the checkout line. Working in the mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) space, I wondered if in 20 years, my grandchildren would see a traditional checkout desk and ask my daughter, “What’s that?”  Just as the pay phone concept was disrupted by mobile phones, checkout stations are being affected by mPOS systems.

Merchants are facing unprecedented change. The pace of technological advancement accelerates each year, and sometimes merchants have to make very quick, tough calls on what to adopt and what to skip. In the U.S., the upcoming EMV (Europay, MasterCard, Visa) liability shift has further complicated matters.

Physical stores will no doubt continue to exist for many, many years. In fact, we are seeing a trend toward e-commerce companies opening traditional brick-and-mortar stores — something that was unthinkable in the heady e-commerce days of the early 2000s. However, the form factor for checkout will evolve to enable merchants to secure a sale as soon as consumers have made their purchase decision. Customers will also expect flexibility when it comes to checkout — and that may mean that rather than centralized checkout lines, merchants will need to offer options such as kiosks, roaming employees with mPOS capabilities on tablets, and may even enable customers to self-checkout via their own mobile devices. As retailers navigate the rapidly evolving mPOS landscape there are some important considerations to keep in mind. For example:

Insist on the latest security certifications and regulatory compliance: This includes PCI (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) and EMV, but also less stimulating terminology such as tokenization and layered security. The need for top-notch security should be obvious is in an era rife with security breaches. Yes many mPOS systems don’t incorporate the very latest security features. Beware.

While there is debate in the payments community about the merits of EMV, at this point it’s fait accompli. The U.S. is the only first-world country not currently utilizing EMV. Merchants must get prepared for EMV card transactions, and further they should assume they’ll need to securely process both chip and sign and chip and PIN transactions. Merchants currently in the market for payment processing technology that don’t consider these facts will find themselves with the equivalent of a Betamax system in a year or two.

Look for flexibility: Many merchants are concerned about emerging payments methods such as mobile wallets and Bitcoin. They want to accommodate customers, but not at the expense of security. Most merchants with which we work are taking a slow and cautious approach, but there are early adopter exceptions. We are currently working with one of the world’s largest fast-food chains on an mPOS solution — an overlay to their existing in-store payment infrastructure — that accepts open- and closed-loop mobile wallets, plus different types of card transactions (magnetic stripe, NFC, chip & PIN and chip & signature). We expect more of these types of projects in the coming year.

Look for application program interfaces (APIs) that allow for customization: When the first rudimentary mPOS solutions were introduced in the early 2000s, no customization options were available. Everything was served up out of the box, with little or no integration. Most were really just card readers, with no software except an interface to a secure card processing backend.

Today’s mPOS solutions provide powerful software that allows merchants to choose their own processor, integrate with back-end systems such as inventory and accounting systems, white label the user interface, and add features such as alternative payment type acceptance or loyalty program integration. Much of this is made possible by APIs provided by mPOS vendors. APIs enable merchants or third parties to easily integrate other systems with an mPOS solution, and also to customize features and interfaces as needed. An mPOS system that doesn’t feature APIs may not get along as well with other payments infrastructure and potentially restrict usage of new features in coming year.

Make sure fixed and mPOS solutions a seamlessly integrated for an omnichannel experience: Remember many merchants kept their brick-and-mortar and e-commerce units separate? It became a logistical nightmare, with major inventory and accounting issues. POS technology needs to be look at holistically - not in terms of fixed or mobile — because customers don’t view them separately. All POS checkout options — fixed, mobile or online — need to provide a consistent interface and backend to ensure customer convenience and better manage the omnichannel experience.
While it may not be possible to completely future proof a mPOS system, choosing one that can accommodate updates and new features is essential to allow merchants to keep up with the blistering pace of innovation in the retail technology world.

To view the original article visit:

Friday, September 19, 2014

Apple Pay- What Does it Mean For Your Business


September 11, 2014
Apple Pay
Apple’s recent unveiling of its new iPhone 6 and Apple Pay platform has sparked a lot of conversation surrounding mobile payments, near field communications (NFC) and the future of mobile commerce. With Apple finally adopting NFC and entering the payments space, you may have some questions regarding how this might affect you and your business.
Merchant Warehouse has followed the announcement and the technology closely all in an effort to help our partners and customers understand the opportunities of Apple Pay and NFC enabled payments present for their businesses.

How will Apple Pay work?
Apple Pay syncs a few of Apple’s existing programs together and when coupled with the new NFC chips in the iPhone 6 can create a seamless payment experience at the point-of-sale. By combining NFC and the account information Apple already has with iTunes, the ability to store other credit, debit, gift and loyalty cards with Passbook, a secure element with their TouchID thumb print imaging, Apple Pay delivers a seamless and secure wallet solution for retail environments and mobile check-out.

What’s the biggest impact Apple Play will have on our industry?
Apple’s introduction into the payments space will have two inherent outcomes: (1) applications that rely on NFC will be developed at a more rapid pace; and (2) consumers should finally start adopting mobile payments. To date, there havent been that many mobile wallets or applications that have taken advantage of NFC. But with NFC being incorporated in the iPhone 6, we can expect more and more applications using the NFC functionality for not only payment apps, but for other practical functions.

It has long been predicted that Apple would be the catalyst for mobile payments. They distribute the most popular mobile devices in the world, have a loyal customer base that integrate different aspects of their lives to their hardware and software and an avid developer community that develops applications to exploit their devices’ functionality.

We already trust Apple (and other mobile devices and platforms) with some of our most important daily functions. It’s only a matter of time before consumers begin to trust and adopt Apple Pay to be their payment method of choice.

Merchant Warehouse is very excited for the opportunities that Apple Pay will bring for businesses. Our Genius Customer Engagement Platform was designed for these types of innovations in mind. The NFC readers in our Genius devices can accept Apple Pay payments today and it will continue to evolve with future innovations.

To view the original article visit: Merchant Warehouse